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LAWSON TAIT, F.R.C.S., etc. 








VOL. Ill, Page 121, etc.] 

VII. — On the Uselessness of Vivisection upon Animals as a Method 
of Scientific Research. 

By Lawson Tait, F.R.C.S., &c. 

[Read before the Society, April 20th, 1882.] 

I need make no apology for adopting the same title for this 
paper as that of Mrs. Kingsford's article in the Nineteenth Century 
for January last, because I had advanced this plea against Vivi- 
section some time previous to the appearance of her contribution, 
and the more I know of the question, the more fully convinced 
do I become of the verdict which will ultimately be passed upon 
it, both by the public and by the medical profession. 

I need not go into the general history of Vivisection, for it 
hardly bears upon the question to which I desire to limit myself; 
but I think it advisable to formulate a few preliminary conclusions 
before I come to my immediate subject, in order that I may clear 
the way for discussion, and show at once the grounds upon which 
I stand, for I find myself in a position adverse to the view adopted 
by the great majority of my professional brethren. 

I dismiss at once the employment of experiments on living 
animals for the purpose of mere instruction as absolutely unneces- 
sary, and to be put an end to by legislation without any kind of 

4 Philosophical Society of Birmingham,. 

reserve whatever. In my own education I went through the most 
complete course of instruction in the University of Edinburgh 
without ever witnessing a single experiment on a living animal. 
It has been my duty as a teacher to keep myself closely conver- 
sant with the progress of physiology until within the last four 
years, and up to that date I remained perfectly ignorant of any 
necessity for vivisection as a means of instructing pupils, and I 
can find no reason whatever for its introduction into English 
schools, save a desire for imitating what has been witnessed on 
the Continent by some of our most recent additions to physio- 
logical teaching. In Trinity College, Dublin, the practice has 
been wholly prevented, and on a recent visit to that institution I 
could not find, after much careful inquiry, the slightest reason to 
believe that any detriment was being inflicted upon the teaching 
or upon those taught. 

The position of vivisection as a method of scientific research 
stands alone amongst the inBnite variety of roads for the discovery 
of Nature's secrets as being open to strong prima facie objection. 
No one can urge the slightest ground of objection against the 
astronomer, the chemist, the electrician, or the geologist in their 
ways of working; and the great commendation of all other workers 
is the comparative certainty of their results. But for the physi- 
ologist, working upon a living animal, there are the two strong 
objections : that he is violating a strong and widespread public 
sentiment, and that he tabulates results of the most uncertain and 
often quite contradictory kind. 

I do not propose to deal with the sentimental side of the 
question at all, though no one can doubt it is a very strong element 
in the case as maintained by public opinion, but I must point out 
that there are four avenues of thought by which this aspect of the 
case is almost unconsciously traversed, and which are to be sepa- 
rated from it only by arbitrary divisions. 

The first is the avenue of pure abstract moralitjr, by which it 
is argued that we have no right to inflict sufferings on others that 
we ourselves may benefit, an avenue which is worthy of the highest 
respect, because its opening up is only a matter of yesterday in 
the evolution of the moral life of individuals, and as far as national 
morality is concerned it can hardly be said to have been ever 
seriously considered until about a year ago. 

Mr. Lawson Tait on Vivisection. 5 

The second may be called a political avenue, and is also one 
of importance, though that importance is not visible at first sight, 
and may even be altogether denied by some of a particular shade 
of political conviction. But to those of us who regard the Game 
Laws as a prolific method of manufacturing criminals, of wasting 
public money, of preventing the development of agricultural 
industry, and hindering the development of the peasant from his 
present serfdom to his possible and perfect citizenship, this avenue 
assumes a mighty importance when we discover that the lay sup- 
port of vivisection is derived mainly from those who maintain 
costly pheasant preserves in order to become amateur poultry 
butchers, and who maim pigeons at Hurlingham under the idea 
that it is amusement. 

Any one, therefore, who objects to the Game Laws from 
political conviction, will put vivisection upon its trial, and he must 
hear a good case before he consents to an acquittal. 

The third avenue is the religious one, and it is a road many 
are traveling, upon very different errands, and with very different 
convictions. I must content myself with pointing out that the 
doctrine of evolution has affected religion as it has everything 
else, if indeed it is not establishing an altogether new form, of ' 
faith, which is making an unrecognized, certainly an unmeasured, . 
progress amongst us. Admitting that the so-called lower animals ■ 
are part of ourselves, in being of one scheme and differing from 
us only in degree, no matter how they be considered, is to admit 
they have equal rights. These rights are in no case to be hastily 
and unfairly set aside, but should be all the more tenderly dealt 
with in that civilization and inventions are every day making it 
more and more difficult for the animals to assert their independ- 
ence, or as it were to vote upon the question. 

There remains, therefore, the fourth avenue, which simply 
amounts to the inquiry, Has this method of scientific research — 
vivisection — contributed so much to the relief of suffering or to 
the advance of human knowledge as to justify its continuance in 
spite of the manifest objections to it? My own answer I shall 
try to give in the following pages, merely premising that an answer 
to justify vivisection must be clear and decisive, must be free 
from doubt of any kind, and above all, it must not assume the 
protection of a "privileged mystery." This is a question, I main- 

6 Philosophical Society of Birmingham. 

tain, which can be discussed by an educated layman just as well, 
perhaps better, than by a physician or a surgeon or a professional 
phj'siologist. It is a question chiefly of historical criticism, and 
we must have a conclusive answer concerning each advance which 
is quoted as an instance, how much of it has been due to vivisec- 
tional experiment and how much to other sources, and this amount 
must be clearly and accurately ascertained. It will not do, as has 
been the case in many of the arguments, to draw such a picture 
as that of an amputation in the seventeenth century and one per- 
formed last year, and say that the change is due to vivisection. 
We might just as well point to the prisons of the Inquisition and 
then to one of our present convict establishments and claim all 
the credit of the change for the fact that our judges wear wigs.. 
The real questions are: What advances in detail are due to vivi- 
section ? Could these advances have been made without vivisec- 
tion ? If vivisection was necessary for elementary and primitive 
research, is it any longer necessary, seeing that we have such 
splendid and rapidly-developing methods in hundreds of other 
directions ? Have we made complete and exhaustive use of all 
other available methods, not open to objection ? And finally, are 
the advances based upon vivisection of animals capable of being 
adapted conclusively for mankind, for whose benefit they are pro- 
fessedly made ? 

It must be perfectly clear that to answer all these questions, 
specific instances must be given, and that they must be analyzed 
historically with great care. This has alread} 7 been done in many 
instances, and I am bound to say in every case known to me, to 
the utter disestablishment of the claims of vivisection. 

Take the case of the alleged discovery of the circulation of 
the blood by Harvey, and it can be clearly shown that quite as 
much as Harvey knew was known before his time, and that it is 
only our insular pride which has claimed for him the merit of the 
discovery. That he made any solid contribution to the facts of 
the case by vivisection is conclusively disproved, and this was 
practically admitted before the Commission by such good author- 
ities as Dr. Acland and Dr. Lauder Brunton. The circulation was 
not proved till Malpighi used the microscope, and though in that 
observation he used a vivisectional experiment his proceeding was 
wholly unnecessary, for he could have better and more easily have 

Mr. Lawson Tait on Vivisection. ? 

used the web of the frog's foot than its lung. It is, moreover 
perfectly clear, that were it incumbent on any one to prove the 
circulation of the blood now as a new theme, it could not be done 
by any vivisectional process, but could at once be satisfactorily 
established by a dead body and an injecting syringe. In fact, I 
think I might almost say that the systemic circulation remained 
incompletely proved until the examination of injected tissues by 
the microscope had been made. 

But supposing we grant, for the sake of argument, that such 
an important discovery had been made by vivisection and by it 
alone, there still remains the all-important question, is it necessary 
to use such mediaeval methods for modern research ? No one can 
doubt that the rude methods employed in Charles II's reign for 
obtaining evidence — the rack, the boot, the thumb-screw, and the 
burning match — were occasionally the means of accomplishing 
the ends of justice, but need we go back to them now ? The very 
necessity for ending them brought into use fresh and far less 
fallible methods, and I am inclined to make the claim for physi- 
ology, pathology, and the practice of medicine and surgery that 
the very retention of this cruel method of research is hindering 
real progress, that if it were utterly stopped, the result would 
certainly be the search for, and the finding of, far better and more 
certain means of discovery. To urge its continuance on the ground 
that it was useful in the seventeenth century is just as reasonable 
as to ask the astronomer to go back to the cumbrous tackle by 
which Huyghens first worked his lenses. 

If the method of obtaining evidence by torture was occa- 
sionally successful, there can be little doubt that as a rule it failed 
and led the inquirers astra}'. So I say it has been with vivisec- 
tion as a method of research, it has constantly led those who have 
employed it into altogether erroneous conclusions, and the records 
teem with instances in which not only have animals been fruitlessly 
sacrificed, but human lives have been added to the list of victims 
by reason of its false light. 

Those who have recently advocated vivisection seem to have 
forgotten or to have ignored this most fatal objection, and as a 
rule they have indulged in a line of argument which is little more 
than assertion. For the purpose of this paper I have gone care- 
fully over a large mass of literature upon the subject, and find 

8 Philosophical Society of Birmingham. 

that the hulk of it is altogether beyond criticism, because it dees 
not deal with fact. Thus in a recent address on the subject by 
Professor Humphrey, of Cambridge, there is a long list of advances 
in medicine and surgery, every one of which is attributed to vivi- 
section solely because some experiments were mixed up in the 
history of each instance ; but not an effort was made to show that 
the advances were due to vivisection. The proper method for the 
discussion of this subject is to take up a number of special instances 
and to subject them to careful criticism, chiefly by historical evi- 
dence, and as soon as the advocates of vivisection do this success- 
fully, I am prepared to grant their case. But hitherto they have 

Serial literature during the last few months has been singu- 
larly fertile in articles on the question of vivisection, and one 
commanding attention as an editorial is to be found in Nature of 
March 9th. 

There the a priori argument for vivisection is put in the 
familiar illustration that " it would be more reasonable to hope to 
make out the machinery of a watch by looking at it, than to hope 
to understand the mechanism of a living animal by mere contem- 
plation." Unfortunately there is a fault in the analogy, and it 
may be far more truly put in the converse, than it would be wholly 
impossible to repair the damaged movements of a watch by experi- 
menting with an upright pendulum clock. There is a perfectly 
parallel dissimilarity between the functions and the diseases of 
animals and those of man. 

In the same article is a quotation from the article of Sir 
William Gull, to the effect that the experiments of Bernard, in 
baking living dogs to death in an oven, have opened the way to 
our understanding the pathology of fever. In zymotic diseases 
the elevated temperature is not a cause of the disease, but its 
consequence, and the answer to the argument is that not a single 
contribution of any kind has yet been made to the cure of scarlet 
fever. Its course cannot be shortened by one hour. Medicine 
is powerless for the cure of zymotics, whilst hygiene is all-powerful 
in their prevention, and the medicine of the future lies wholly in 
this direction. Drugs are impotent, but sanitary laws can and 
will banish all these diseases, when they are completely understood 
and fulfilled. 

Mr. Lawson Tait on Vivisection. 9 

The article continues that "between 1864 and 1867, seven new 
drugs were added to the Pharmacopoeia, of which at least the two 
most useful, carbolic acid and plvvsostigma, are due to vivisec- 
tion." Upon the question of new drugs I can speak only with 
great reserve, for such a wholesome skepticism concerning drugs 
has been introduced by the medical schism of homoeopathy, that 
I look upon all new drugs with great suspicion. Sir William 
Gull himself says he has not much belief in drugs. I fear most 
new drugs do more harm than good ; some of them, such as 
chloral, most certainly have done so. I cannot learn that physos- 
tigma is of any practical service, and I have shown in my pub- 
lished writings that carbolic acid has done far more harm than 
good. Perhaps it would have been better if we had never heard 
of it. The question of the investigation of the actions of drugs 
by experiments on animals I have to confess is a very difficult 
one, because after we have found out what they do in one animal 
we find that in another the results are wholly different, and the 
process of investigation has to be repeated in man. Not only so, 
but in human individuals the actions of drugs, in very many cases 
vary so much; that each fresh patient may form really a new 
research. Pharmacy forms, therefore, at least, a very shaky 
argument for vivisection. 

Finally, the Editor of Nature deals with the argument of 
proportion, which is stated to the effect that the proportion of 
pain inflicted by vivisection bears but small ratio to the pain 
relieved by the discoveries effected in that way. But if this 
question be examined historically, as it must be for the sake of 
justness, it will be found that the argument is all the other way. 
To take the case of Ferrier's experiments, if the history of the 
point be examined, even from the period of Saucerotte till now, 
the number of experiments recorded is perfectly awful, and we 
can easily imagine that many more were performed and not put 
on record. Concerning the arteries this is still more true ; and 
it is, to say the least of it, very doubtful if any permanent good 
has been done by them. What we do really know about both of 
these matters with certainty has been derived from the post- 
mortem examinations of our failures in human subjects, and not 
from vivisection experiments. 

In a work published within the last few weeks by a distin- 

10 Philosophical Society of Birmingham. 

guished member of this Society, Dr. George Gore, entitled " The 
Scientific Basis of National Progress," and at p. 80, will be found 
the following sentence : " The Antivivisection movement is but 
one of the phases of the ever-existing conflict between the 
advancing and retarding sections of mankind." 

I do not know whether I belong to the antivivisection move- 
ment or not, but I certainly cannot rank myself with those who 
attribute to vivisection the merit which distinctly belongs to other 
causes. So far I am an antivivisectionist most thoroughly. 

Similarly I do not know whether or not I am to be regarded 
as belonging to the " retarding section of mankind." If I am so 
classed, I fear I shall be in company as strange to me as I shall 
be objectionable to it. But my relief is great as I read further in 
Dr. Gore's book and see upon what grounds he has built his con- 
clusion. I have never heard that Dr. Gore has conducted any 
vivisection research himself, and therefore I assumed that he took 
his argument from some other source. He was kind enough to 
give me his reference for the following statement, which he makes 
at page 81 : " Ferrier's comparatively recent vivisection experi- 
ments have already enabled medical men to treat more success- 
fully those formidable diseases, epilepsy and abscess of the 
brain." His authority is an anonymous article in the British 
Medical Journal of November 19th, 1881, in which a series of cases 
is given in support of this extraordinary statement. The purport 
of it is that the experiments of Ferrier have led to greater cer- 
tainty in applying the trephine for the removal of depressed 
fractures, etc., which had produced serious symptoms, or for the 
relief of matter in cerebral abscesses. 

I do not propose now to go into this very wide and difficult 
question, because I shall have a fuller opportunity on another 
occasion. I shall only say that Ferrier's first experiments were 
published in 1873, and that previous to that time a large number 
of cases are on record where the seat of injury was ascertained 
with perfect accuracy by simpler and less misleading methods — 
in one case by myself in 1868. The a priori difficulties in the 
application of Ferrier's conclusions are enormous and, as it seems 
to me, insuperable ; and, after a most careful historical considera- 
tion of the illustration quoted by Dr. Gore, my verdict is most 
decidedly that of not proven. 

Mr. Lawson Tait on Vivisection. 11 

The application of the trephine for the treatment of epilepsy 
is of course absolutely limited to cases where the disease is the 
result of injury to the skull. No one has ever dreamed of apply- 
ing it to other cases. I find that the first operation of this kind 
was performed in IT 05, by Guillaume Mau quest de la Motte with 
partial success, and it was repeated with complete success by Mr. 
Birch of St. Thomas's Hospital, 1804. Between 1804 and 1865 
there are 50 cases on record (collected by Dr. James Russell, 
British Medical Journal, 1865), and of these 44 recovered, the 
results being satisfactory in 39 of them. This paper of Dr. Rus- 
sell's was published years before any of Ferrier's experiments 
were undertaken, and the results of trephining for epilepsy pub- 
lished since are not so good as those published by Dr. Russell. 
The most recent contribution to the subject is a paper by Mr. J. 
F. West, who asks the question " Are our indications in any given 
case, either of paralysis or epilepsy, sufficiently precise and well- 
marked to warrant us in recommending the use of the trephine 
at a particular point of the skull? " and he answers it thus : " It 
will be a long time before it is definitehv settled, but such cases 
as those alluded to give encouragement." This answer of a prac- 
tical surgeon is very different from that of Dr. Gore. 

Even if the conclusions which are attributed to Dr. Ferrier's 
researches were to be regarded as indisputable, my answer would 
be that they might have been arrived at, and certainly would soon 
be enormously extended, if our clinical research were conducted 
upon reasonable and scientific principles. The chief reason of the 
slow advance of the arts of medicine and surgery is the reckless 
waste of the material so plentifully supplied by disease, and the 
first remedy will consist in the subdivision of the labor, a remedy 
agaiust which, unfortunately, the medical profession protests most 

It is of course perfectly impossible to deal with all of the 
illustrations in favor of vivisection which have recently been 
advanced in the limits of an ordinary paper, and I prefer to take 
those which deal with points of practical utility, rather than with 
such as have as yet only a possibility of being useful in the future. 
I shall deal, therefore, at present chiefly with the illustrations 
which have been gathered from the field of practical medicine and 
surgery, for in them, of course, the public see the strongest argu- 

12 Philosophical Society of Birmingham. 

ments. If it is publicly announced, as has been done of late very 
widely, that human diseases have been cured and human suffering- 
lessened by experiments on the lower animals, the public must 
therein see a strong argument for vivisection. But such announce- 
ments are open to the test of historical examination, and to this I 
propose to subject the most important of them. I am equally 
open to discuss in the same way those points of less apparent 
usefulness, the matters of mere physiological discovery, on some 
future occasion, if it should arise ; but, as with these, the only 
defence can be, that some day they m^y prove of service, it is 
clearly best to deal first with those for which an actual and not 
merely a potential utility is claimed. 

Those of my professional brethren who take the other side 
may probably complain that I have selected a lay audience for the 
discussion ; but the answer is, that by the circulation of pam- 
phlets, and by communicated paragraphs in newspapers, they have 
already taken the initiative, and I am but meeting them on their 
own ground. 

I am quite well aware that I am one of a small minority of 
my profession in my view that vivisection is useless as a method 
of research, but the answer I am disposed to offer on tins point is, 
that not one in a hundred of ruy professional brethren have ever 
seriousl}' examined the question. Ninety-nine take for granted 
the statements of the hundredth, and he, in turn, has not gone 
into the matter upon that side from which alone a' safe answer can 
be given — that of historical criticism. 

The dispute, as I have already said, is not to be settled by 
mere statement of opinion, one way or the other ; nor is it a 
question of authority. On the argument of authority a very 
singular answer has been given by the supporters of vivisection 
in the case of the late Sir William Fergusson, who stated in his 
evidence before the Ro^al Commission that in his opinion nothing 
had been gained for surgery by experiments on the lower ani- 
mals — an opinion which I entirely endorse. During his lifetime, 
Sir William Fergusson had heaped upon him all the distinctions 
which his Queen, his country and his profession had it in their 
power to bestow. He was the titular head of his profession, its 
most successful operator, one of its greatest anatomists, its most 
widely employed practitioner, its most successful teacher, the 

Mr. Lawson Tait on Vivisection. 13 

author of its principal text-book on surgery — but now, when he 
is dead, we are told he was not a scientific surgeon, because he 
did not believe in vivisection. Nobody said this in his lifetime, 
and so late as 1813 he was elected President of the British Medical 
Association, over all the profoundly scientific surgeons of the 
Metropolis. I share Sir William's opinions concerning vivisection, 
and I am quite content to rank with him on that account as an 
unscientific surgeon. 

A pamphlet has recently been published in this town on 
" The Influence of Vivisection on Human Surgery," by Mr. 
Sampson Gamgee, in which the proposition is set forth that without 
experiments on living animals " scientific surgery could not have 
been founded, and its present humane and safe practice would 
have been impossible." Mr. Gamgee supports this proposition 
by a series of instances which we may presume are the best and 
strongest he could find. These I tabulate as follows, and I shall 
discuss them historically in this order. 

I. Treatment of injuries of the head, and the theory 
of Contre-coup. 
II. Amputation of the Hip-joint. 

III. Paracentesis Thoracis. 

IV. Subcutaneous Tenotomy 

Y. Treatment of Aneurism, Ligature, and Torsion of 
YI. Transfusion. 
YII. Abdominal Surgery. 
VIII. Function of Periosteum. 
IX. The Ecraseur. 
X. Detection of Poison. 

Mr. Gamgee tells us that the Academie de Chirurgie gave out 
the subject of contre-coup and its influence in injuries of the head 
as the subject for a prize competition, and that the prize was 
obtained in 1118 by M. Saucerotte, whose essay was based "on 
literary research, clinical observations, and twenty-one experi- 
ments on living dogs." * He omits, however, to make any esti- 

* Memoire sur les Contre-coups dans les lesions de la Tete, par M. 
Saucerotte (Couronne en 1768), Mem. Acad, de Chirurgie, torn, x, 327, 

et seq. 

14 Philosojrfiical Society of Birmingham. 

mate of the value of the experiments on the dogs, which seems 
to me to be absolutely nothing ; and he quite forgets to mention 
that the theory of contre-coup had been completely established 
for nearly two centuries before, and had been particularly the sub- 
ject of Paul Ammannus, of Leipsic, who wrote a well-known work, 
" De resonitu seu contra flssura cranii," in 1674, in which trepan- 
ning is recommended at the point of contre-coup, as had been 
practiced by Paul Barbette, of Amsterdam, thirteen years before 
that. The theory of contre-coup, and the fatal practices arising 
from it, are happily now buried in oblivion, in spite of Saucerotte's 
vivisection, and would never again have been alluded to, but for 
Mr. Gaingee's unfortunate resurrection of them. 

The modern verdict concerning fractures of the skull is given 
tersely in Mr. Flint South's words, ''the less done as regards 
meddling with them the better," and "a knowledge of counter 
fractures is quite uncertain." In fact nothing could be more 
unfortunate than the selection of M. Saucerotte's experiments as 
an illustration of the value of vivisection, for they were performed 
for a purpose which was long ago recognized as futile, and in 
support of a practice universally condemned. 

M. Saucerotte says— "Pour etablir le diagnostic des lesions 
des differentes parties du viscere, j'ai cru devoir prendre la voie 
de l'experience et de 1 'observation. Ce ne sont point ici des con- 
sequences hasardees, ce sont les resultats de faits penible, que 
formeront, a ce que j'espere un foyer lumineitx, dont les ra} T ons 
repondront le plus grand 'jour sur la pratique." He anticipated 
many of Ferrier's experiments by more than a hundred 3 T ears, and 
when he trephined the skulls of dogs and injured their brains on 
the right side, he found that they became somewhat feeble on their 
left sides, and vice versa, a fact that had been established by 
pathology long before. His idea of imitating the injury of contre- 
coup, was to pass a knife right through the substance of the brain, 
till it impinged on the inner surface of the skull opposite the 
trephine hole, a most absurd experiment, as the contre-coup 
injures at the opposite surface only, and not necessarily at all the 
intervening brain substance. 

Reading his experiments, the} r seem so like Ferrier's that I 
fancy if Dr. Ferrier had known of the existence of this essay he 
would have found little need to repeat its work. 

Mr. Lawson Tait on Vivisection. 15 

Many of the conclusions of Saucerotte's experiments are 
eminently absurd, and, save that of the decussation of the fibres, 
which was known before, I can find few that have been since 
accepted, and those that have been he candidly avows were pre- 
viously observed in cases of disease. Finally, the conclusions 
concerning treatment of injuries of the head which he draws from 
his experiments are not such as would be listened to in modern 
surgery, and it is cei'tain that if they were ever acted upon they 
must have had results almost uniformly disastrous. 

The fact is, that the whole run of vivisectional experiments 
on the brains of animals, now extending over hundreds of years, 
have given no sort of assistance to the elucidation of the physi- 
ology of that wonderful organ, so contradictory have been the 
results. On this subject Dr. W. B. Carpenter, who curiously 
enough has recently appeared as an ardent supporter of vivisection, 
says, in the seventh edition of his standard work on the " Prin- 
ciples of Human Physiology," p. 645, " The results of partial 
mutilations are usually in the first instance a general disturbance 
of the cerebral functions ; which subsequently, however, more or 
less quickly subsides, leaving but little apparent affection of the 
animal functions, except muscular weakness. The whole of one 
hemisphere has been removed in this way, without any evident 
consequence, save a temporary feebleness of the limbs on the 
opposite side of the body, and what was supposed to be a defi- 
ciency of sight through the opposite eye. * * * So far as 
any inferences can be safely drawn from them these experiments 
fully bear out the conclusion that the cerebrum is the organ of 
Intelligence," a conclusion which surely has never been doubted, 
since it was first the object of the then savage club to destroy the 
intelligence of a foe by cracking his skull. Continuing his 
researches on such experiments as those of Saucerotte and Ferrier, 
Dr! Carpenter tersely sums up the prima facie objections to them, 
objections which seem to him, as they seem to me, to be fatal to 
their utility : "It is obvious that much of the disturbance of the 
sensorial powers which is occasioned by this operation is fairly 
attributable to the laying open of the cranial cavity, to the dis- 
turbance of the normal vascular pressure, and to the injury 
necessarily done to the parts which are left by their severance 
from the cerebellum." Dr. Marshall Hall also pointed out long 

16 Philosophical Society of Birmingham, 

ago that injury to the dura-mater is an important factor in the 
results obtained. 

II. — Amputation of the Hip Joint. 

At page 8 of his pamphlet, Mr. Gamgee makes the astonishing 
statement that this operation was only attempted after it was proved 
safe by vivisection. The authority he has been kind enough to 
give me for this is a brief sentence in the preface to the ninth 
volume of the u Memoires de PAcademie de Chirurgie," written 
by the Secretary General and published in 1*7 "78. 

But the first hint we get of amputation of the hip-joint is 
from a German surgeon named Vohler, who was in practice about 
1690. It is doubtful if he ever performed it on a living patient, 
but it is on record that he tried on the dead body. But it was 
performed by M. la Croix, of Orleans, in 1*748, not only on one 
limb, but on both limbs of the same patient, the first operation 
being successful, and the second almost so. This was nearly thirty 
years before the publication of the vivisection of dogs ; and there 
are many other cases of success previous to Mr. Gamgee's alleged 
origin of the operation, one being by the celebrated Ker of North- 
ampton, in 1*773 ; and as Mr. Gamgee has published a large book 
on amputation of the hip-joint, it is surprising that he did not 
know something more about the history cf the operation. 

III. — Paracentesis Thoracis. 

Mr. Gamgee makes another most unfortunate selection in the 
case of William Hewson, who based a theoretical operation for 
pneumothorax upon experiments on living dogs and rabbits so 
long ago as 1769. He made a wound in the side of the chest and 
admitted air into the pleura, where no air ought to be, and then 
he operated to get it out again. When such a condition is brought 
about in man, and no vital organ seriously injured, the patient 
gets perfectly well without any operation. I cannot learn that 
Hewson's cperation for the removal of air has ever been performed 
on man. When pneumothorax occurs from disease it is generally 
associated with conditions necessarily fatal, for which no opera- 
tion is advisable. On this point the greatest authority, Dr. 
Bowditch, of New York, says, " I have operated once in pneumo- 
hydrothorax, with temporary relief and comparative ease for 

Mr. Lawson Tait on Vivisection. 17 

several days. Many theoretical objections may he urged against 
the operation in such a case ; but as the operation can do uo harm 
and may give much relief, I shall operate again in such a case." 
The proceeding is therefore doubtful, the conditions are extremely 
rare, pure pneumothorax, such as Hewson invented his proceed- 
ings for, never needs it, and therefore his experiments on living 
dogs and rabbits were useless. 

Finally, tapping for the removal of fluid in the chest was 
practiced long before Hewson's time, and therefore his research 
was needless. Hewson really based his proposal on this well- 
known practice, but in this he was anticipated in the most favor- 
able cases — those of wounds — for Anel, of Amsterdam, published 
quite the same proposal in 1101, and it has been uniformly con- 
demned by every writer on military surgery since, because the 
removal of the air merely induces bleeding.* Anel devised a 
syringe for the purpose, which has been revived as the modern 
aspirator.f Had Mr. Gamgee known an}*thing of Dominic Anel 
he would never have mentioned William Hewson. 

IT. — Subcutaneous Tenotomy. 

I have traced the history of the surgery of tendons, and I 
cannot see the slightest reason to attribute any of the advances in 
this department to the alleged vivisections of John Hunter. I 
cannot find any record of these experiments, beyond the allusions 
to them by Drewry Ottley, and Palmer in his life of Hunter. 

The same accident which happened to Hunter in 1161 hap- 
pened to the first Monro in 1126, and from the latter instance a 
very marked advance in surgical practice was at once made, and 
a contrivance invented by Monro himself, for his own case, is still 
in use and goes by his name. No such advance was made from 
Hunter's accident or from his vivisections. In their histories of 
the progress of orthopaedic surgery, Little and Adams make no 
such claim for Hunter. Adams points out clearly, and with justice, 
that Hunter established the principles on which subcutaneous 
surgery is now conducted ; but these he established from clinical 

* Flint Soutli's edition of Chelms, vol. i, p. 452. 

f L'Art de Sucer les Plaies sans le servir de la boucke d'un homme. 
Amsterdam, 1707. 

18 Philosophical Society of Birmingham. 

observations, not from experiments upon animals. And in his 
lecture on " Ruptural Tendons" (vol. i, p. 436), Hunter says not 
one word about his vivisections, or any conclusions he derived 
from them as to the, method of repair of tendons. If he ever 
made any such experiments he must have placed very little value 
upon them. 

If we trace the development of tenotomy we find that Hunter's 
experiments had no influence upon it at all. They were performed, 
it is said, in 1767. But the first tenotomy was not performed till 
1184, by Lorenz, at Frankfort, and then the conditions were abso- 
lutely in defiance of the principles of subcutaneous surgery. It 
was done by an open wound, and this practice was continued with 
hardly any modification till far on in this century. In fact, as 
A dams points out, it is from 1831 that the commencement of scien- 
tific tenotomy dates, at the hands of Stromeyer. If this is so, and 
Adams makes his case out most conclusively (Club-Foot, 1873), 
how utterly useless Hunter's experiments on dogs must have been 
to lie forgotten and unnoticed till unearthed in Mr. Gamgee's 
pamphlet of 1882, one hundred and fifteen years after they were 
performed ; or how singularly careless and inattentive to the 
teachings of vivisection the medical profession must be, that they 
should allow this immense discovery to lie neglected from 1767 
till 1831. 

To bring forward so rash an illustration as this for the value 
of vivisection is to cast a terrible slur at the profession of surgery, 
a slur which I do not think at all deserved if the true history of 
such advances is carefully investigated, and the moving causes of 
them properly credited. 

Y. — Treatment of Aneurism, Ligature and Torsion of 

Mr. Gamgee alludes to the oft-quoted story of the Huuterian 
operation for aneurism as a proof of the aid vivisection has given 
to surgery. This illustration has been so completely and so often 
destroyed, that it is absolutely unnecessary to allude to it further 
than to explain that Hunter modified Anel's operation merely 
because he found the artery near to the seat of disease would not 
hold the ligature, and the patients bled to death. As the arteries 
of animals never suffer from the disease in question, experiments 

Mr. Lawson Tait on Vivisection. 19 

upon them could not have helped Hunter in any way whatever. 
Sir James Paget, who has lately appeared as an ardent advocate 
for vivisection, and, therefore, may be appealed to by me as a 
witness not biased to my view, has recorded his opinion in the 
Hunterian oration given at the College of Surgeons in 181 1, that 
Hunter's improvement in the treatment of aneurism "was not the 
result of any laborious physiological induction ; it was mainly 
derived from facts very cautiously observed in the wards and 
deadhouse." In this opinion Sir James Paget is undoubtedly 

Concerning the tying and torsion of arteries I am in a posi- 
tion to speak with some authority, because I have myself performed 
experiments on living animals, and have found how futile they 
are, and how uncertain and untrustworthy are their results. Mr. 
Gamgee tells us that some local worthies, who distinguished them- 
selves by early performances of serious operations, practiced their 
'prentice hands on living animals. This is not scientific experi- 
mentation, but culpable and wholly unnecessary cruelty. It is on 
the dissecting table that a surgeon prepares his hand for his work, 
and not on the bodies of living animals. I have never known nor 
heard of such an instance before, and I trust there are no more to 
be quoted. Any surgeon who did this now would, I am sure, 
receive a universal condemnation from his professional brethren. 

Mr. Gamgee quotes Jones's experiments on the arteries of 
animals as an instance of a valuable contribution to surgical pro- 
gress by experiments on animals, and I do not think any more 
complete illustration could be quoted in support of the uselessness 
of vivisection as a method of scientific research than that of the 
history of the physiological and pathological processes to be 
observed in arteries. If we consider the question from what some 
would call the purely scientific side, that is apart altogether from 
any practical bearings it may hare for the relief of human suffer- 
ings and the cure of human disease, it consists merely cf a mass 
of observations in which each observer contradicts some other. 
Upon this subject I wrote as follows so long ago as 1865: — 

" John Hunter warned surgeons to avoid injuring any of the 
coats of an artery, and to this effect advised that the ligature 
should not be drawn So tight as to cut them ; while many of his 

20 Philosophical Society of Birmingham. 

contemporaries and successors dreaded any injuries so much that 
they used all sorts of clumsy contrivances to avoid it — such as 
pads of lint and bits of cork inserted between the arteries and 
ligature. Again, Travers, in his experiments on ligatures of 
arteries, demonstrated that Jones was quite wrong when he in- 
sisted that it was necessary to divide the inner coats ; and Mr. 
Dalrymple, of Norwich, proved by his experiments that while 
simple and continued contact of the parietes of a vessel, without 
the slightest wound of any of the coats was sufficient to produce 
permanent adhesion and obliteration, yet that division of the 
internal and middle coats without continued coaptation invariably 
failed to produce adhesion. Hodgson says that he cannot sub- 
stantiate Jones's statement that division of the coats is essential, 
and strongly supports the opinion that coaptation of the walls, 
without rupture of any of the coats, will produce occlusion. The 
theories of Dr. Jones were strongly supported by Professor 
Thompson, his teacher, but were strongly opposed by Sir Phillip 
Crampton, who insisted that the division of the coats not only was 
unnecessary, but that it frequentlj 7 defeats its own object." — 
Medical Times and Gazette, 1865. 

I quote this at length to show that fifteen years ago I found 
authorities differing so much on this scientific question that I 
thought it advisable to institute a new series of vivisectional ex- 
periments to decide it. The experiments performed by nryself 
only added to the confusion, though nobody saw that at the time. 
What we were working at was to get quit of the ligature altogether, 
and to secure arteries by a temporary compression of some kind 
without injuring the coats. Acupressure promised to accomplish 
this; but it failed, for reasons I need not enter into here. The 
desire to get quit of the ligature was due to the fact that after a 
vessel was tied one end of the ligature was cut off and the other 
left hanging out of the wound, where it remained for weeks, some- 
times for months, and occasionally (as in Lord Nelson's case) for 

The amazing thing is that with all the expei'iments made upon 
animals nobody ever thought of cutting both ends of the ligature 
quite short and closing the wound over it. As a matter of fact, 
from the time of Ambrose Pare to that of Simpson, an interval of 
over 300 years, we went bungling on with experiments on animals 
when the whole thing lay clear before us. It was the successful 
experiments of Baker Brown, and Thomas Keith upon women 

Mr. Lawson Tait on Vivisection. 21 

suffering from ovarian tumors which showed us that if we use pure 
silk, cut the ends of the ligature short, and close the wound care- 
fully over them, success will be certain. Yet not content with 
this, we hear of fresh experiments on animals with carbolized 
catgut, chromicized catgut, kangaroo tendons and other novelties, 
which speedily die out when applied to human beings. 

In the case of the arteries, therefore, experimentation on 
animals has proved to be " science, falsely so called." What we 
have done in this direction is entirely the result of clinical expe- 
rience, and that only. 

VI. — Transfusion. 

This operation was not initiated, as asserted by Mr. Gamgee, 
in the second half of the seventeenth century by Dr. Lower, of 
Oxford, nor was it first proposed as a legitimate surgical opera- 
tion at all. It was proposed, and in all probability was really 
practiced, by the alchemists of the sixteenth century as an attempt 
to obtain for the wealthy aged a renewal of their lease of life, 
after the theory and legend of Faustus. Certain it is that allu- 
sions to it are frequent, though the first actual account of its 
performance is given by Andre Libavius, Professor of Medicine 
at Halle (Helmst., 1602), as having been performed by him in 
1594, the blood of a young, healthy man being transfused into a 
man aged and decrepit, but able and willing to pay for the sup- 
posed advantage. In the early part of the seventeenth century, 
it was a good deal discussed from this point of view, forgotten 
for awhile, and then after the Restoration it was reconsidered, 
and a great deal written about in this country and on the Conti- 
nent. An extremely interesting allusion to the experiments is to 
be found in the wonderful Diary of Samuel Pepys . — 

"November 14th, 1666. — Dr. Croone told me, that at the 
Meeting at Gresham College to-night (which, it seems, they no^ 
have every Wednesday again), there was a pretty experiment of 
the blood of one dog let out (till he died) into the body of 
another on one side, while all his own run out on the other side. 
The first died upon the place, and the other is very well, and likely 
to do well. This did give occasion to many pretty wishes, as of 
the blood of a Quaker to be let into an Archbishop, and such like ; 
but, as Dr. Croone sa}-s, may, if it takes, be of mighty use to man's 

22 Philosophical Society of Birmingham. 

health, for the amending of bad blood by borrowing froni a better 

"16th. — This noon I met with Mr. Hooke, and he tells me 
the dog which was filled with another dog's blood at the College 
the other day is very well, and like to be so as ever, and doubts 
not it's being found of great use to men, and so does Dr. Whistler, 
who dined with us at the Tavern." 

The scheme of transfusion in all the experiments of the 
seventeenth century descriptions of which I have seen, was to 
take arterial blood from an animal and pass it into the veins of 
another, and that this was successful is not surprising. But this 
has never been attempted in modern times upon man. It certainly 
would not be justifiable ; because, to interfere with a large artery 
— and a large artery would be required — in a man is always an 
extremely risky thing. Dr. Lower, who is Mr. Gamgee's authority, 
in 1667 injected or tried to inject arterial blood from a lamb into 
a man, but the operation was so badly clone that I do not believe 
any blood really passed. If Pepys's idea could have been carried 
out, of transferring some of the peaceful blood from the arteries 
of a member of the Society of Friends, for the replacement of the 
turbulent and brutal spirit of Archbishop Laud, some good might 
have been done, much of the terrible history of that time need not 
have been written, and I might not have appeared here as a critic 
of such experiments. But no such or any other good result was 
obtained. A large army of experimenters rushed into the field, a 
fierce controversy took place ; but before the eighteenth century 
dawned the whole thing was discredited and forgotten. Mr. Flint 
South gives a succinct history of the matter, and tells us that it 
was revived by the plan of mediate transfusion in the early part 
of the present century. The former experiments were fruitlessly 
repeated and others tried. The result is that the operation has a 
very insecure hold on professional opinion. I have seen it per- 
formed seven times without success in a single instance. I have 
twice been asked to do it, and have declined, and both patients 
are now alive and well. We hear a great deal of cases in which 
patients have survived after ti'ansfusion has been performed, but 
we hear little or nothing of its failures. Personally, I have no 
confidence in the proceeding. 

Mr. Lawson Tait on Vivisection. 23 

YII. — Abdominal Surgery. 

Mr. Gamgee alludes to a vivisection experiment made by John 
Shipton, and published in 1703, as having laid the foundation for 
the recent advances of abdominal surgery, which are attracting 
the admiration of the whole professional world, and the instances 
he quotes date so late as 1880. If Shipton 's experiment has been 
so fertile, why has the crop been delayed for one hundred and 
seventy-seven 3'ears ? 

But even here Mr. Gamgee is wrong in his history. The 
whole progress of abdominal -surgery dates from the first success- 
ful case of ovariotomy performed by Robert Houston in 1701. 
Failing to see the lesson taught by this, and led astray by vivi- 
section, no further success was achieved till 1809, by Ephraim 
McDowell, and it was not till 1867 that any substantial gain was 
made. Disregarding all the conclusions of experiment, Baker 
Brown showed us how to bring our mortality of ovariotomy down 
to 10 per cent.; and again, in 1876, Keith proved that it might be 
still further reduced. The methods of this reduction were such 
as only experience on human patients could indicate ; experiments 
on animals could and did teach nothing, for operations have been 
performed on thousands of animals every year for centuries and 
nothing whatever has been learnt from this wholesale vivisection. 

As soon as Keith's results were established abdominal sur- 
gery advanced so rapidly that now, only six years after, there is 
not a single organ in "the abdomen that has not had numerous 
operations performed upon it successfully. I have had, as is well 
known, some share in this advance, and I say without hesitation, 
that I have been led astray again and again by the published 
results of experiments on animals, and I have had to discard 
them entirely. 

Speaking of some recent attempts which have been made to 
operate on cases of cancer of the stomach, Mr. Gamgee says : 
" Warranting, as such cases do, the placing of cancer of the stomach 
amongst diseases curable by the knife, do they not also justify the 
vivisection of dogs b} r Shipton and Travers, who, by their experi- 
ments, laid the first scientific foundation of intra-abdominal 
surgery ? " Such a statement as this must be so completely 
qualified as to be regarded as altogether inaccurate. No form of 

24 Philosophical Society of Birmingham. 

cancer is yet known ever to have been cured, either by opera- 
tion or anything else. If removed it invariably returns, and in 
all these cases of cancer of the stomach quoted \>y Mr. Gamgee, 
save one, the disease speedily returned and killed the patients. 
The one exception has not yet been under trial long enough to 
enable us to give an opinion. Doubtless it will have the same 
end as the others. 

VIII. — Function of Periosteum. 

The history of the development of our knowledge of the 
formation and growth of bone is exceedingly interesting, because 
it shows how completely misleading are the conclusions based 
upon vivisectional experiments, and how perfectly the secrets of 
Nature may be unraveled by a careful and intelligent examination 
of her own experiments. No one can look now at a necrosed 
bone without seeing how completely the whole story is there 
written. The history also exemplifies the fact that it is not only 
the purely practical details of surgery which are independent of 
vivisection for their development, but what are called the more 
scientific developments of physiological knowledge are equally 
possible without its aid, and are often retarded by its misguidance. 

The first real observer in this department was Jean Guichard 
Duverney, born in 1648, who achieved such distinction that Peyer, 
in a dedicatory epistle, sa} r s to him, " Sempiterna te (Duverneyum) 
quondam trophoea manebunt et Regi vestro, Academiag Urbique 
gloriosum erit tantum aluisse civem." He studied closely, and 
wrote a great deal about the anatomy, physiolog}^ and surgery of 
bones, and in his books * he fulby describes the method of growth 
and ossification of bone, its dependence for its nutrition and 
growth upon the periosteum ; the only thing he lacks is the micro- 
scopical knowledge of modern times. He also performed vivi- 
sections, not upon the periosteum, but upon the medulla, and they 
led him into most erroneous conclusions. He cut through the 
thigh bone of a living animal, and repeatedly plunged a stilette 
into the medulla, and the animal gave evidence of great suffering. 
The marrow, he therefore concluded, received a great number of 
nerves, which passed through the canals in the bone, but which 

* Traite des Maladies des Os, 1751, Paris. CEuvres Anatomiques, 
Paris, 1761. 

Mr. Lawson Tait on Vivisection. 25 

existed only in his imagination. As long as he kept to his clinical 
observations and anatomical dissections he reached exact con- 
clusions, but as soon as he entered the arena of vivisection he 
went all astray. 

The next author of note was Francois Hunauld, born in 1701, 
who published in 1730 "Recherches Anatomique sur les Os du 
crane de l'homme," in which he describes with the utmost accuracy 
the ossification by the membranes, between which the cranial 
bones are developed. The only errors he made were hypothetical 
descriptions of things he could not have seen without a micro- 
scope, and that he evidently had not used. 

Next comes Robert Nesbit, a Scotch surgeon, settled in 
London, who published in 1736 an essay, entitled "Human 
Osteogeny, explained in two lectures " 

He was the first to demonstrate the construction of bone by 
the now familiar experiment of dissolving out the mineral matter, 
and leaving, as he most accurately sa}S, a spongy substance alto- 
gether different from cartilage. Cartilage he referred to its proper 
function ; but he describes it as vascular, in this showing the want 
of microscopical investigation ; but concerning the process of 
ossification he had got quite as far as we have at the present day. 
He tells us that in the blood, or in a liquid separated from it, 
there is an ossifying fluid, a fluid containing the material out of 
which bone is built up, composed of parts which are not sensible: 
that whenever Nature determines upon an ossification within a 
membrane, from which all bones are developed, or in a cartilage, 
she directs by some means, the nature of which we are ignorant 
of, a larger quantity of blood to the vessels of the membranes, so 
that they become distended and visible, whereas before they were 
invisible. He describes the process of ossification only with such 
errors as are due to the absence of the microscope, and says : 
"Thus the membranes (periosteum) and the cartilages, are the 
reservoirs in which the osseous particles are deposited and 
moulded." He denied the existence (and quite correctly) of an 
internal periosteum, which had become about that time a matter 
of great contention. 

The celebrated discovery of the property of madder for 
staining growing bone, when used as food by animals, was pub- 
lished by John Belchier in the Philosophical Transactions for 

26 Philosophical Society of Birmingham. 

1*136, and he fully disclosed thereby the method of growth of bone 
from periosteum, and many other most interesting and valuable 
discoveries concerning bone. 

Between 1139 and 1*743 Henri Louis Duhamel-Dumonceau 
published eight memoirs on the growth and repair of bones, largely 
based on the suggestive discovery of Belchier. Up to this time 
the formation of callus was thought to be due to an effusion of 
osseous juice — a belief which pervaded the surgical teaching of 
a distinguished professor of the University of Edinburgh so late 
as my own student days — but Duhamel proved its real origin. 
He also completely established the fact that bones grow in thick- 
ness by the addition of osseous layers originating from the 

Duhamel performed many vivisections, but it is quite clear 
from his own descriptions that they were failures and did not help 
him. He sajs himself that his conclusions were based on sections 
which he made of specimens of fractures which were in the col- 
lections of Winslow, Moraud, and Hunauld. In fact, to any 
intelligent observer who looks at a preparation of necrosis it is 
evident that no vivisection was needed to show the whole process 
and growth of repairs of bone ; and even if vivisection were 
necessary, history disphvys with certainty that Syme and Oilier, to 
whom Mr. Gamgee attributes the merit of these discoveries, were 
only uselessly repeating the attempts of Duhamel more than a 
century old, and were onby attempting to establish what had long 
before been proved. 

Since Duhamel's time thousands upon thousands of experi- 
ments upon animals are on record, some to prove that the perios- 
teum has nothing whatever to do with the formation of bone or 
with the production of callus, and others to prove that we owe 
everything to the periosteum, and yet it has been settled absolutely 
only by the experiments of disease upon our own bodies, and not 
by experiments on animals. It would be really amusing to read 
the accounts of the researches of Sue, Bordenave, Delius, Dethleef, 
Fongeroux, Haller, and countless others, were not the humor of 
their mutual contradictions sadly marred by the accounts of the 
tortures they inflicted uselessly on nvyriads of animals. 

The experiments of Dethleef of Gottingen, in 1752 were far 
more scientific than those of Mr. Syme in 1837, and the conclu- 

Mr. Lawson Tait on Vivisection. 27 

sions of both seem to me to be equally erroneous. At any rate 
Mr. Syme did not help us one bit in advance of Duhamel and 
Fongeroux. Haller made numerous vivisectional experiments, 
and he was the most distinguished physiologist of his time, }-et 
he records his conclusion that the periosteum has nothing what- 
ever to do with the formation of bone, and as a proof of this he 
quotes the formation of exostoses on teeth. The fact is, that as 
long as dependence was placed on vivisection, so long did one 
experimenter investigate after another fruitlessly, and with con- 
clusions absolutely contradictory. On pathological research alone 
has the true conclusion been established. Haller made a long 
series of vivisectional experiments, published in two memoirs.* 
and triumphantly proved that the periosteum can have nothing to 
do with the formation of bone. He concluded from his vast array 
of experiments that bone grew from the middle and not from the 
outside, together with many other absurdities, only to be matched 
in the modem researches of Bennet and Rutherford on the func- 
tion of the liver, also based on fallacious vivisections. 

The whole of the physiology and pathology of bone have been 
laid bare by the accident of the pigs of the dyer with whom Belchier 
dined, by microscopic research, and the observations of disease. 
Yet Hunter and Stanley thought it necessary to confirm the con- 
clusions of the madder stain by such a clumsy device as fixing a 
ring of metal round the growing bones of a young animal, letting 
the ring remain for months or years, and then examining to find — 
what ? absolutely nothing, save that the ring had been more or 
less covered, just as it would have been on a tree, thus only re- 
peating Duhamel's conclusions. Other observers bored holes in 
bones and filled them with metal plugs and shot to find only that 
the conclusions of disease, that long bones grow from the epiphyses 
is absolutely correct. Then we come to Mr. Syme's paper in 
1837, " On the power of the periosteum to produce new bone." 
Mr. Syme almost every week was in the habit of cutting through 
great thicknesses of new bone attached to and growing from the 
periosteum to get at dead old bone from which the periosteum 
had been separated ; and the new bone, being between the perios- 
teum and the old bone, must of necessity have grown from the 
periosteum : there was nothing else it could grow from. There- 

* " Sur la Formation des Os." Lausanne, 1758. 

28 Philosophical Society of Birmingham. 

fore, if Mr. Syme found it necessary to cut up animals to find out 
what was constantly staring him in the face, he was a profoundly 
unscientific surgeon, whose researches were as badly conducted as 
they were useless. 

When Mr. Gamgee read his paper at the local Medical Society 
and quoted these experiments of Mr. S3 r me, I said that, as far as 
I could recollect, the fact was that their conclusions had been 
absolutely upset by Mr. Goodsir, who did not make experiments 
upon animals, but followed a far more scientific method of 
research — microscopic examination. On refreshing my memory I 
find this is the case. In a paper read before the Royal Society of 
Edinburgh* in answer to Mr. Syme, Mr. Goodsir shows that Mr. 
Syme's method of research was so bad that the experiments could 
not be performed accurately. Mr. Sj'me was pre-eminently an 
unscientific surgeon, for he knew nothing of the microscope; in 
fact, it may be doubted if he ever looked through one. Mr. 
Goodsir, on the contrary, may be looked upon as the father of 
modern histological research. He proves conclusively that Mr. 
Syme's experiments were absurd in their conception and futile in 
their application. Mr. Goodsir's conclusions are, on the contrary, 
uniformly accepted, and as to his method he says that they were 
made upon shafts of human bones which had died — museum 
specimens, just as Duhamel's were. They showed that whilst the 
periosteum is the matrix and machine by which the new bone is 
made, the real agency is in the layer of osteal cells, and so he 
finally solved the riddle. He did this by mici'oscopic and patho- 
logical research. He condemned the employment of vivisection 
as useless and misleading, and to him we owe the completion of 
Belchier's and Duhamel's research— a completion which was hin- 
dered for a century by the blunders of vivisectionists. 

After this I need not stop to discuss the useless repetition of 
Mr. Syme's experiments, with variations by Oilier of Lyons, for 
that would be merely a waste of time. 

IX. — The Ecraseur. 

Mr. Gamgee quotes the introduction of the ecraseur as an 
instance of the influence of vivisection on the progress of human 
surgery. No more unfortunate instance could be quoted. The 

* Trans. Roy. Soc. Edin., vol. xiv. 

Mr. Lawson Tait on Vivisection. 29 

principle of the instrument is that it crushes and tears the tissues 
instead of cutting them as by the knife. The surgical aphorism 
that " torn arteries don't bleed" was in existence long before M. 
Chassaignac was born, and if he had based his employment on 
that alone, he could have done all that his iustrument has effected. 
But unfortunately he performed experiments upon animals, and 
immediately he was led astray. I once saw the leg of a favorite 
dog amputated at the hip-joint on account of disease, and when 
the limb was removed not a single vessel bled, and the main 
artery was tied only as a matter of precaution. In the human 
subject I have seen twelve or fifteen arteries tied in the same oper- 
ation, for with us the smallest arteries bleed and require to be 
secured. Our arteries act in ways altogether different from those 
seen in the lower animals. Their pathology and physiology are 
absolutely different, as may be seen in the frequency of apoplexy 
and aneurism with us, and the almost complete immunity from 
them of all the lower animals, even in extreme old age. Hunter 
tried his best to induce aneurism to the lower animals, and failed. 
Injuries to arteries in the lower animals are repaired with the 
utmost certainty and readiness, but in man it is altogether 
different. It may be easily imagined, therefore, that M. Chas- 
saignac 's application of the ecraseur to the lower animals was 
found wholly misleading when man was the subject, and now in 
human surgery its utility is extremely limited ; that is, it is 
entirely confined to operations where only very small arteries are 
divided. Speaking for my own practice, I may say that it might 
be dispensed with and never missed. 

Mr. Gamgee's quotation of its application to the ovarian 
arteries of the cow is peculiarly unfortunate, seeing that when it 
was used for the same purpose in the human subject it had 
speedily to be given up on account of its failure. 

X. — Detection op Poison. 

A great deal has been made of the successful experiments 
recently performed by the medical experts for the conviction of 
Lamson, for that worst of all crimes, the most unpardonable, 
murder by poisoning. At first sight this does seem a case in 
which experiments upon animals may be justified. Certainly 
anything and everything ought to be done to convict a poisoner, 

30 Philosophical Society of Birmingham. 

and if nothing short of that would do, I would advocate the per- 
formance of a hecatomb rather than that such a scoundrel as 
Lamson should escape. So late as a few weeks ago I made a 
reservation on this point in my condemnation of vivisection as a 
method of research, but it seems to me, from a closer considera- 
tion of the facts of the case, that it forms realty a very strong 
argument for the complete abolition of vivisection, and, at the 
same time, unfortunately it is a matter of grave reproach to 
modern science. . 

Fortunately the conviction of a poisoner is almost certain. 
If he is not a doctor he commits the crime so clumsily that he 
cannot escape. If he is a doctor he must have an interest in the 
victim's death, is almost certain to be in pecuniary difficulties, and 
is sure to have had a bad character previous to his gi'eat crime. 
The only difficulty lies in the proof of the presence of the poison. 
With all poisons but the alkaloids this is a matter of such ease 
that failure is impossible, and as the alkaloids are almost exclu- 
sively in the hands of chemists and doctors, the limitation of their 
use is very close. 

The most notorious case in which an alkaloid was used, or 
supposed to have been used by a poisoner, was that of Parsons 
Cook. The alkaloid was supposed to be strychnine, and I say 
supposed, because I rise from the perusal of that trial with much 
doubt as to whether Parsons Cook really died of sti'ychnine 
poisoning. Certainly I cannot accept it as proved, and I think if 
the trial were to occur now the same evidence which convicted 
Palmer would probably break down. I am perfectly satisfied, 
however, that Palmer received substantial justice. 

In Palmer's case the principal' witnesses for the prosecution 
were the late Dr. Alfred Swa}*ne Taylor, and the late Sir Robert 
Christison, certainty the greatest toxicologists of this century. 
Stiychnine was not discovered in the body of Cook, and Dr. Taylor 
had to admit that the best tests then known were insufficient to 
discover one fiftieth of a grain, and that even half a grain might 
remain undetected amongst food in the stomach. Palmer was 
sentenced to death upon the 27th of May, 1856, and in July of 
the same year a method of chemical analysis was published by 
Copney in the " Pharmaceutical Journal," by which one five 
hundred thousandth of a grain of strychnine could be detected 

Mr. Lawson Tait on Vivisection. 31 

with certainty after separation. In his evidence Dr. Taylor 
admitted that the experiments he had performed upon animals 
with strychnine were practically worthless for any application to 
man, and in the report of the Royal Commission of 1816 he con- 
demned such experiments, particularly those which are directed 
towards the discovery of an antidote to snake-bite. 

Strychnine was discovered in 1818, and was first used as a 
poison in 1831, and again in the case of Mrs. Sergison Smith in 
184*7, and it was no new matter the toxicologists had to do with 
in the trial of Palmer. It must be regarded, therefore, as a matter 
for deep regret that it was not till after the trial and execution of 
Palmer that the chemistry of strychnine was exhaustively exam- 
ined, and definite and certain tests for it obtained. At the trial 
there was a sort of competition among the vivisectionists, and 
Serjeant Shee actually urged as an argument for the defence that 
his witnesses had performed ten times more experiments to prove 
that there was no strychnine, than the witnesses for the prosecu- 
tion had performed to prove what never was proved, that strych- 
nine was used at all. Yet in two months chemical processes were 
devised without the slightest aid from vivisection, which detected 
half a millionth of a grain with certainty. 

At the trial Professor Christison said that another alkaloid 
was known, of a deadly poisonous character, which it was impos- 
sible to detect, but under the judge's direction he refused to make 
its name known. There were really many alkaloids of a deadly 
poisonous character at that time quite well known, and aconitine 
was one. The first case to bring this poison under notice as a 
criminal agent was in 1841, and the notorious Pritchard destroyed 
his victims with it in 1865. Dr. Penny of Glasgow resorted to 
experiments on animals in order to bring the crime home to 
Pritchard, and succeeded. Yet I have looked in vain for any 
record of a research for a method which will detect aconitine with 
certainty by chemical analysis, as strychnine can be detected, and 
Dr. Stephenson admitted in evidence that there was no such test. 

I daresay such a method will be shortly published, and what 
I desire to point out is that this discovery ought to have been 
made long ago in the interest of public safetj', not only with regard 
to aconitine, but with regard to many other alkaloids which may 
be used in the same way, and which cannot be discriminated from 

32 Philosophical Society of Birmingham. 

aconitine, even by experiments on animals. At present, when 
need arises, we must go back to the uncertain method of experi- 
menting upon animals. But this is not science, if by that word 
we are to speak of exact knowledge. The very weakness of this 
method has led to a serious infraction of the principles of our 
judicial proceedings, for the Home Secretary announced in the 
House of Commons only a few nights ago, that the Government, 
in a case such as Lamson's, could not allow the proceedings of the 
medical experts for the prosecution to be watched by other experts 
on behalf of the defence. 

This is altogether unfair, for with such an uncertain and 
inconclusive method as that of experimentation on animals, two 
men, even if appointed by the Colleges of Physicians and Sur- 
geons, and not by the Treasur}', may be mistaken, whereas by 
chemical or spectroscopic analysis mistakes are extremely unlikely, 
and the more observers there are the better. 

The general conclusion therefore is, that for such purposes 
experiments on animals should be entirely prohibited, and that 
an exhaustive research should at once be undertaken at the 
expense of the State, upon the spectrum and chemical analysis of 
all substances which may be used for criminal purposes. There 
is no known substance of constant character which has resisted 
the chemists' effort to identify it when it has been properly 

If all these alkaloids had been subjected to an exhaustive 
investigation as strychnine was after Palmer's trial, there would 
have been no need to revert to vivisection in order to convict 
Lamson, and I do not think it would now be contended as necessary 
for the detection of a poisonous dose of strychnine that experi- 
ments on animals should be made. "Vivisection in this case is 
therefore not the weapon of science, but is the refuge of incom- 
plete work. 

I have now gone over all the points urged' in favor of 
vivisection as contributory to surgical advance as given in Mr. 
Gamgee's pamphlet, and with the result, to my mind, of proving 
that in every instance the claim is groundless. Had I time at my 
disposal I could examine in detail numerous other claims equally 
fallacious. So far, indeed, as I have already said, I have not met 
with a single case capable of substantiation, not even the most 

Mr. Lawson Tait on Vivisection. 33 

recent — that of Pasteur's discovery of the prevention of zymotic 
diseases in domesticated animals by inoculation of cultivated virus. 

In the Nineteenth Century for March will be found an article 
by a well-known veterinary surgeon, Mr. Fleming, on this subject. 
He describes the ravages of such diseases as anthrax, splenic 
fever, rinderpest, swine plague, etc., amongst the animals which 
form our food supply, and I admit the accuracy of his statements. 
Quite recently Mr. Pasteur has discovered, and his statements 
have been amply confirmed, that the specific organisms which 
form the poisons of these diseases, may be so artificially cultivated 
as to be capable of producing by inoculation a mild form of the 
original disease, which mild form is largely protective from the 
severe and fatal form of the same malady. In fact there is a per- 
fect analogy between this discovery of Pasteur and that of Jenner. 

The argument is that by their inoculation the zj'niotics of 
domestic animals may be stamped out, and the claim is that it is 
a great advance brought about by vivisection. But on a little 
examination it seems to me that both argument and claim break 
completely down. If it is really an advance from vivisection, 
then those who benefit are the animals experimented upon, and 
that may be legitimate enough — they at least would share largely 
in the benefit. 

But the case must be examined from another side. There are 
some twenty zymotics amongst our domestic animals to be 
provided against. Are we to have each of them inoculated some 
ten or twelve different times, each time for a different disease? 
The affirmative reply possesses a strong pecuniary interest for a 
veterinary surgeon, but a practical man will only smile at it. 

But, to go deeper into the question, we find another and a 
much stronger objection. Such a process as protective inocula- 
tion must always be an inefficient and a temporary measure. To 
take the case of vaccination and small-pox, it is beyond dispute 
that vaccination protects the individual to a large extent from 
small-pox, but it does not protect the community — as may be 
seen from the ravages it is making at the present time in 
neighboring towns and counties. The machinery of vaccination 
never can be so perfect as to stamp out the disease, and it must 
be regarded purely as a temporary expedient. The real agent 
for the stamping out of small-pox is the machinery of a system of 

34 Philosophical Society of Birmingham. 

sanitary police, such as we have here ; and even on the small scale 
in which we have had it for six years it has worked marvels. It 
will stamp out not only small-pox but every other zymotic at 
the same time, and by the same measures, and then we need not 
trouble about vaccination — certainly it need not be compulsory. 

But the case is still stronger with the lower animals. "With 
them, as with us, civilization has introduced zymotic poisons, 
which are absolutely unknown to the wild animal, and the reasons 
are not far to seek. In my capacity as one of the managers of a 
large public institution, I had recently to investigate the cause of 
an endemic of swine plague, and I found a state of matters which 
had caused at the same time typhoid fever in a human patient. 

Look at the arrangements of an ordinary British farm-yard, 
and then believe that it is a matter of no wonder that rinderpest 
destroys the cattle, and diphtheria the farmer's children. The 
animals spend their lives in houses not lighted and not ventilated, 
or walk about in a mass of seething filth, on one side of which 
stands the farm-house, every room reeking with the stench of the 
cattle yard. 

When it begins to dawn on the mind of the British public 
that all these diseases, both for man and animals, are absolutely 
preventible by the simple means of securing fresh air, pure water, 
and abundant light, they will be banished. Meantime inoculation 
may, and probably will, prevent individuals being attacked, but it 
will not stamp out the diseases, and it must be regarded as really 
a -retrograde proposal when we have in our hands the means of 
complete prevention. 

I hope I have thus made it clear that deeply as I feel the 
strength of the objection to the practice of vivisection upon the 
various grounds I indicated at the beginning of my paper, I urge 
against it a far stronger argument than these, that it has proved 
useless and misleading, that in the interests of true science its 
employment should be stopped, so that the energy and skill of 
scientific investigators should be directed into better and safer 
channels. I hail with satisfaction the rousing which is evident in 
the public mind upon this question, and I feel confident that before 
long the alteration of opinion which I have had to confess in my 
own case will spread widely amongst the members of my useful